Six weeks after losing the lead in the final corner at Phoenix, Jason Robarge found a way to hang on over the final few hundred feet in a thrilling three-wide finish in the Deadzone Racing 150 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Robarge edged Dan Geren and series champion Jake Wright, both of whom finished within .078 seconds of the winner.
“I need a towel right now to wipe off all that sweat,” Robarge said in victory lane. “My heart is racing from just trying to hold that bottom. You know how it is racing them, (Geren and Wright) are both so talented.”
The win is Robarge’s first of the season, and second in his Lionheart IndyCar Series career. He is the 12th different winner through 16 events this season.
“I didn’t even expect it, I was just hoping for a top 15,” Robarge said. “I was having connection issues and I just wanted to make it to the end.”
Robarge inherited the lead from Ed Tutwiler on lap 93. Tutwiler, who stretched his fuel, hoping to need just a splash and beat the leaders back off pit road, instead missed his pit entry and spun through the grass, picking up a penalty and ending his chances of winning.
Geren and Wright used the draft to close the gap on Robarge, but despite numerous attempts, neither could get around the eventual winner.
“I feel exhausted after that race,” Wright said. “It was a very different race, because we started on pole but dropped back during the second caution and had to work our way back up.”
Geren echoed Wright’s sentiment.
“I’m still shaking on that one,” Geren said. “I tried, tried, tried to get Jason there at the end because I knew if I got a big enough run off four, I could get him at the line. It just wasn’t enough.”
Big Joe Hassert finished fourth, while Alfred Shepperd ran a season-best fifth.
The race saw two cautions. The first, on lap 34, also was the result of a driver missing pit entrance. Dave Barber, a rookie in the series, carrier too much speed and couldn’t get turned down quick enough. When he finally turned in, Brandon Limkemann had nowhere to go and the two collided.
Tutwiler trapped the field a lap down by stretching his fuel, and the ensuing restart saw wild racing as lapped cars and lead-lap cars mixed it up, vying for track position and attempting to run down Tutwiler.
Eventually, the racing was too close. After third place Ricky Hardin hit the wall exiting turn four, Jason Galvin took evasive action. The fourth placed driver made contact with Jesse Vincent, a lap down at the time but running as quick as anyone on track.
Galvin then missed entry into turn one, clipping the apron and wiggling up the track. As Galvin saved the car, Korey Connor couldn’t lift in time, and a massive crash ensued. At the end of it, Galvin, Michael Gray, Hardin, Joe Branch and Tony Showen were all retired.
The lap 53 accident was the final caution of the day, setting up a long run to the stripe and the thrilling finish.
Patrick Taylor came home sixth, with Connor and Vincent rebounding to seventh and eighth, and Mark Nobert and Tutwiler rounding out the top 10.
With double points on the line in the season finale, second through tenth in points could be completely flipped before the season ends. The final race of the Lionheart IndyCar Series season takes place at Auto Club Speedway on Wednesday, January 13. It’s the Make A Wish Drive for the Championship 300, and will be broadcast live on Global SimRacing Channel at 10:45 p.m. est.
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